(I splurged and found a three dollar bin of Heavy Metals. Yay Gem City)
I have a rule of thumb at shows now, it’s a good one, that I don’t spend any money till I break even on the trip, lodging and table. It’s hard to do sometimes. Especially at a show like Gem City, chock full of nummy discounted things (like the score pictured above).
First off, I want to thank everybody that popped by the table and said hi, asked questions or bought something. I think this may be the last time I do that show. It was a trial run as I skipped a couple to see if things improved traffic/sales wise. It hadn’t for me. I did have a good time. The staff was great. If I had turned a profit, I would have went nuts in the dealer room. It’s better than Mid Ohio, seriously.
On my old blog I had done a post about some common sense guidelines about tabling at shows. Stuff I learned the hard way. Common annoying habits that should be curbed when doing a show. Anyway, here you go…
- Diversify and scout: be sure to check out a show first before you do the show. If it’s a first time con, that will be the con to do as the promoter will blow their wad making sure it’s promoted. After that, I guess it’s the real test whether or not they can keep it up. Crowds tend to smooth out to mostly the fans. This can be hard to do starting out but assess whether or not you can at least break even. I would look for shows outside of the comicon circuit. Music festivals, book fairs, etc. Limit yourself to one or two mainstream comicon-type shows a year. One of those better be one where editors/publishers are floating about. There are so many indie conventions now, you could bypass the ‘comicon’ entirely. Know that mainstream shows have a very limited crowd open to all things indie. It’s true. Most of the crowd is their to get a sketch of Superman, get their book signed by X writer for DC, or complete their collection of Machine-Man. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. These are the shows where I sell everything but the comics… which leads me to…
- Diversify your merch: have a mix of different merchandise on your table. T-shirts, sketchbook ashcans, prints (skip b/w. color sells). I’ve been at shows where everything but the comics move.
- The hard-sell: If you feel compelled to yell at people like a carny-barker to get them to check out your stuff, you’re at the wrong show. You shouldn’t have to behave this way. What this achieves is a deer-in-the-headlights look and they walk away buying nothing. Even if you’re sketching, try to look up occasionally.
- When to bail: I’ve had a hard time quitting a couple of shows, but if the audience isn’t there, it’s time to stop doing that show. Skip a year and come back if you’re still in doubt. If the crowd is still the same or worse, it’s time to stop doing that show. If it’s a local show, no harm no foul. Unless the table rate is really exorbitant. (My ouch point is around $100-$125 for a comic show)
- What to wear: Wear a nice shirt. Not an obnoxious Spiderman Hawaiian style shirt. You want to have some kind of professional air to you. Shower.
- New books: I see this question all the time- how much do I run off of my new mini? The magic number seems to be 50 if you’re in doubt. Printing (pricing) breaks happen in volume unfortunately. Offset seems to be around 2000 (which you better have a distributor lined up for that many). Copy shops try to mimic the offset pricing but in reality, copy shops run these things for pennies a page. Core cost for color and other shop expenses has to be around 10-15 cents for color (per side). Maybe cheaper than that. Black and white is around 3-5 cents. Paper used can affect the cost but yeah, they can really gouge you. It’s unavoidable, unless there’s healthy competition in your area, or you go online. Print-on-demand places usually look like shit. I have yet to send a high res file out that hasn’t been re-pdf’ed into a low res 72 dpi hot mess. If I run into anything that proves me wrong, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
…and that’s pretty much it. Besides buying some kind of table covering, be sure to buy a couple of bottles of something wet and a snack or two. I had an epically bad peanut-butter twix bar this weekend. Overpriced vending machine purchase. The bar had the consistency and flavor of a warm poo. Blech. Over the years, I lucked into some vinyl displays that bookstores use. They’ve been indispensable.